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Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina  

Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina

Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina

The Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina, is a bird in the crane family Gruidae. It was once called also Kaffir Crane.

It occurs in dry savannah in Africa south of the Sahara, although in nests in somewhat wetter habitats. There are two subspecies: Balearica pavonina pavonina in the west and the more numerous Balearica pavonina ceciliae in east Africa.

Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina

This species and the closely related Grey Crowned Crane, Balearica regulorum, which prefers wetter habitats for foraging,
are the only cranes that can nest in trees. It is about 1 m long, has a 1.87 m wingspan and weighs about 3.6 kg.

Like all cranes, the Black Crowned Crane eats grass, insects, reptiles, and small mammals. It is endangered, especially
in the west, by habitat loss and degradation.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Crowned_Crane

The body of the Black Crowned Crane is mostly black, with distinctive white upper and under wing coverts. The head is
topped with a crown of stiff golden feathers. Cheek patches are red and white. The subspecies are most easily distinguished
by the differences in the coloration of their cheek patches. In the West African subspecies, the lower half of the cheek patch
is red; in the Sudan subspecies, the red extends into the upper half of the cheek patch. The gular sac under the chin is small
and dark. The gular sac is similar to a wattle, except that it can be inflated. Legs, toes, and bill are black.

All crowned cranes have the ability to perch because their long hind toe (hallux) allows for grasping. Males and females
are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger.

Black Crowned Cranes use both wet and dry open habitats, but prefer freshwater marshes, wetter grasslands, and the
edges of water bodies. Black Crowned Cranes are considered both year-round residents and local migrants, flocking
during the dry non-breeding season.

The Black Crowned Crane's circular nest platforms are built of grasses and sedges within or along the edges of densely
vegetated wetlands. Females lay 2-5 eggs and incubation (by both sexes) lasts 28-31 days. Both parents guard the nest.
When the female leaves the nest to forage, the male often guards by perching on a nearby tree. The male will sound an
alarm call if a threat is perceived. Chicks fledge (first flight) at 60-100 days.

Illegal capture and trade for the pet industry is the most serious threat to Black Crowned Cranes. There is an ancient
tradition in West African countries such as Mali, to keep domesticated Black Crowned Cranes at household
compounds . However, in the past 30 years, international trade in the species has accelerated. Other threats facing the
Black Crowned Crane are the loss, transformation, and degradation of habitat. In West Africa, wetlands and grasslands
have been devastated by natural forces (drought) and by the intensification of human land use
(overgrazing, destruction of tree cover.)

When nothing else stated, all pictures courtesy of
International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin. www.savingcranes.org


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